Four Ways to Improve Your Leadership Without Following the Pack

by | Jun 25, 2014

It’s not easy being a great leader. One of the marks of good leadership is the ability to look at problems in new ways, find creative solutions, and think outside-of-the-box in order to inspire others to greatness. Leadership isn’t all about you, after all...it’s about how you communicate and motivate others.

In a recent blog, Ilya Pozin talks about breaking free from the traditional. And it is the traditional that drives our lives - going to the office, "back to back meetings", getting home late, solving difficult problems, living on Outlook, fitting in the short holiday. In his blog, he provides four ways in which he believes you can hone your leadership by moving away from the traditional. Here they are:

1. Refuse Early Meetings

You get up in the morning psyched about powering through your to-do list. You spend your commute getting ready for the work day. You know exactly what you need to get accomplished and as you walk in the door, you’re ready to start crossing items off your list. There’s only one problem: you have an early morning meeting and your momentum immediately screeches to a standstill.

If you’re a leader, consider implementing a short-term block on all early meetings and see if productivity improves. If you’re not in a leadership position, go to your manager and suggest moving meetings to later in the day. You might be amazed at how much you can accomplish when you free your mornings to prioritise and plan.

2. Look For a Devil’s Advocate

Having a workplace debate can make even the most steely leader reconsider their stance on certain issues and their belief in certain projects -- yet many leaders and workers avoid debate and discussion at all costs. As a leader, you can’t surround yourself with “yes men” if you want your company to succeed, grow, and thrive.

Leaders need to start a culture where it’s not only acceptable to question everything, but it’s required. Create a designated time in every meeting or at the start of every major project where everyone involved can play devil’s advocate. Defending a position or hashing out potential problems can help you understand the importance of your work and discover what areas might need to be improved upon.

3. Learn From Someone Outside Your Niche

Once you choose a career path or industry, you can get calcified in certain ways of thinking. After years of doing things the same way, it can become harder and harder to thinking outside of the box and creatively problem solve. What’s the solution? It’s all too easy to get so stuck in your niche you actually cut down on your skill set. For both leaders and employees, looking at the world from another perspective can actually open up new experiences and add new wisdom.

4. Volunteer Your Time

If you feel like you’re always being passed over for leadership opportunities at work, stop scrolling job boards and feeling sorry for yourself. The problem might not be your company or your project manager, it might just be your leadership skills. A great way to gain useful on-the-ground leadership techniques is to volunteer your time and efforts in your local community.

As a leader, honing these skills in a volunteer setting can keep them sharp. Plus, leading a project, coordinating an event, or even spearheading a fundraiser can help you develop new talents.

Once you’ve gained confidence in your newfound abilities to lead and inspire, this confidence will be more noticeable to the movers and shakers in your office. And if it isn’t, you now have concrete examples of your leadership abilities to show you’re up to the task when negotiating with management for an opportunity to lead.

Great leadership abilities don’t happen overnight and they certainly don’t develop by following the same well-worn paths as everyone else. Sometimes you have to take a few steps down a different road in order to become a better, and more skilled leader.

Jeffrey Tobias

About Jeffrey Tobias

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well-known startups.

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Managing Director, The Strategy Group

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.

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